It seems inevitable now that an American would leave California to live in Paris, France, and start an American-style breakfast diner called Breakfast in America, and that it would be a great success. With hardly a bump in the road, no detours, just a smooth, straight road to a man’s dream.
Insert a throaty French laugh here: Oh-ho-ho! Au contraire, mes amis.
Yes, just about everything went wrong on Craig Carlson’s path to glory. As hilariously detailed in his first book, Pancakes in Paris, the author took an unusual route to his life’s calling. Growing up in Connecticut, moving to LA as a hopeful screenwriter, than gambling it all to open a breakfast place in a strange land. Why breakfast? He loved pancakes, bacon, hash browns and his grandmother’s scrambled eggs – none of which was available in the City of Light.
So while in California, he lined up investors. First, the “angel investors” who were so loaded that just one could supply the needed $100,000 to get going. No luck. Then the smaller, $5,000 investors. No luck. Turns out that Carlson didn’t know enough to “ask for the order.”
Eventually, though, he learned to ask, and the smaller investments came his way. Although some could only afford $1,000. To which he sighed and said, Oui.
The whole Breakfast in America (BIA) story is laid out like an awesome brunch buffet, seasoned with Carlson’s tragicomic tone. Mon Dieu! The ups and downs of running a restaurant. French bureaucracy, immigrant workers with fake papers, incompetent managers, the Scottish waiter who made death threats, the night Carlson spent in a Paris jail.
You really don’t want to spend the night in a Paris jail.
I labored for ten years in food service and could relate to some of Carlson’s experiences. But not as an owner. I can only imagine the strong heart, head and lungs it must take to be that guy. And do it, every day, pretty much forever.
There are now three BIA’s in Paris. If I ever go, I’d like to visit each one. Pancakes here, French Toast there, and possibly CC’s Big Mess at the third. (The recipe’s in the back of the book, by the way)
Of course, I’d always ask for the Bottomless Mug O’ Joe. Because that’s what you do in France.